TapMedic’s invention was, oddly, driven by injustice. Let me explain…
As a working plumber I lost count of the number of, “My tap’s dripping” calls. Invariably, the next line from the customer would be an apology. “Sorry it’s such a small job.” Quite naturally, most people assumed a dripping tap to be a small, easy and therefore cheap job.
The reality of late 20th & early 21st century taps though, is that the traditional (patented in Rotherham in 1845 by John Guest & Edward Chrimes (jnr)) multi-turn variety of taps (using a rubber washer) are becoming increasingly & comparatively rare. A quiet, invisible & unstoppable revolution has taken place; traditionally washered valves have been superseded by ceramic disc cartridges. The physical struggle to open or close a tap that’s worn, is increasingly being consigned to the history books. This change has been a God send to older people with conditions like Arthritis because taps are now so much simpler & physically easier to use. That said, it is not as easy to finely control flow. Possible, but not as easy.
As a homeowner generally, all we want is a tap that works! We couldn’t care less about how it does it. It was seeking reliability and ease of use that drove Alfred Moen (of the USA) to patent the original ‘non-drip’ tap in the 1950s. He was fed up with continually changing washers! In the early 1980s another American organisation (who’s name escapes me) modified Moen’s design to what we see in taps today. Just to be clear, I mean taps with separate hot and cold handles, not the type with a single lever.
Back to injustice. As mentioned, when customers have a dripping tap they call a plumber. The first thing we plumbers ask is, “Is your tap a ¼ turn tap?” If it’s ¼ turn, so ceramic, then our historic response was, “Sorry but it’s better to fit you a new tap.” I’ve literally lost count of how many times I said it!
As soon as I uttered the phrase though, I could feel the customer bristling. You could hear them thinking, “Thieving swine. He’s already talking the job up” or “Lazy swine. He doesn’t want a simple job so he’s turning it into something more profitable – for himself!” or any one of a thousand variations of “I hate plumbers because…” You can hear it in their voice.
Of course as the professional, your natural reaction is to defend yourself, and your integrity, and then to try to justify yourself, to explain why. The more you try though, the deeper that black hole seemed to become…
With over 5000 variations of ceramic cartridges to be found installed in taps, no plumber can be certain, even if the make and model is known, which cartridge is fitted to which tap without considered & extensive investigation. Supplies must be isolated, the tap disassembled, the cartridge accurately measured and then it all put back together before your investigation ‘proper’ can begin. Firstly, is the cartridge available? Stock situations? Prices? Then it’s back to the customer. This all takes time which, of course, must be paid for.
Once you’ve investigated, it’s easy to provide an estimate of what this ‘simple’ job’s final cost might be. Adding in the detail talked about above takes a perceived £5 job to over £125 to finish. “Riduculous” in the words of a good few of my old customers.
Customers advise, “Keep some in stock.” If only! Merchants don’t keep spares and, even if they did, we’ve worked out we’d need some 8000 (a pair of each) at a cost of approx. £120,000 plus a dedicated vehicle for them. Let’s just say, “Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Manufacturers do not want taps being repaired. They want to sell new – every time. They’ve known about this issue or over 40 years but have said nothing. They’ve let plumbers take the blame, hung us out to dry. I have had customers say to me, “Manufacturers wouldn’t do that.” They do. They have. Most importantly, they continue to do so…
Manufacturers have, in my opinion, actively steered away from standardisation. They can standardise very simply, but they choose not to. Why? I’m pretty darn sure it’s because it would reduce new tap sales. Manufacturers talk about their ‘green’ credentials but then actively encourage the wholesale waste of raw materials – along with the energy to take those materials out of the ground, process it into taps and then to ship the resultant taps halfway around the globe from China. For them it’s profit, profit, profit – at any cost.
When a working plumber, I experienced people scrimp and scrape to get enough money together, especially during the recession, to pay for a new tap when I should have been able to effect a simple repair. I have had people joke with me that a cup of tea and an ability to wash up was more important than eating! I didn’t find it funny then and I still don’t. I’d rather do it for free as would many of you – despite the crap published by the likes of the Daily Mail.
All the above is the injustice that drove TapMedic’s invention. Now any professional can instantly set most taps back to better than new for a fraction of the cost of a new tap and that tap will keep going for as long as the customer sees fit to keep it.
TapMedic are a small part of the revolt against needless waste called the Circular Economy. Our aim is to leave something for our children to inherit and not fritter it all away.
Next time you get a dripping tap, insist on using TapMedic, it’ll be a revelation…
Inventor & founding director of TapMedic